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Living Like the Locals

SmarterTravel

Author: Valerie
Date of Trip: September 2016

We are a retired couple living in England and have just completed a “reunion jaunt” with brother and sister in law (also retired) from Atlanta Georgia. We spent three wonderful weeks in Italy and enjoyed every minute.

We wanted to avoid the usual tourist destinations, so planned the trip ourselves. (Helpful that two of us understand Italian!)

We met in London and took our low cost flights to Pisa and hired our car. We drove to the coast to Quercianella,
South of Livorno, to a pre-arranged address. Claudio the owner of the villa was there to meet us and show us around, giving us the low down on the local popular eating spots. We were to spend a wonderful week, relaxed and making our own timetable, exploring parts of Tuscany, shopping, eating and sampling the wonderful wines of the region. Some days we were happy to stay in “our” garden, playing cards and chatting.

After a week we drove to Livorno to take the Grimaldi ferry to Olbia in Sardinia, taking our rental car with us.
We then drove from Olbia to Cala Liberotto, on Sardinia’s East Coast. Here we were met by Antonio and Simone who were lending us their beautiful villa underneath the pine trees. They also gave us all the information we needed about the local area. This is a seaside resort with private villas, shops and restaurants, with a choice of lovely beaches. Of course we spent some time exploring the region, visiting wonderful seaside restaurants or medieval towns like Bosa and Orosei. The scenery is breathtaking, rugged and rocky with cork oaks and huge cactus plants, soft and sandy with oleanders, or striking and astonishing like the marble quarries.

At the end of the week we drove to Cagliari where we left the car and took a low cost airline to Bari, back on Italy’s mainland. Picking up a second rental car, we then drove to the beautiful Selva di Fasano, on the hill overlooking the Atlantic coast. This time our villa belonged to Barbara and Giuseppe, who were of course there to meet us.
We strolled around their beautiful garden, admired the swimming pool and learned how to turn the heating on if the nights got cool. They didn’t, we were spoilt with the lovely soft Italian Indian summer, again exploring the region, admitting the thousand year old olive plantations, sampling the locally produced food and wines.

We spent a week here before taking our last low cost flight back to London, to spend the last three days together before our fellow travellers flew back to the States.

This was a holiday on a budget, the flights were inexpensive, the rental cars well worth the cost when divided by four and all the accommodation was free. As we have a small apartment in London, our Italian friends will use it when it suits them, on a non simultaneous basis. Of course we will offer them the same warm welcome and there will be no charge for their stay.

The planning of this trip was also enjoyable, making contact with other “exchangers”, many of them, like us have been holidaying in this fashion for several years, and each time is as enjoyable as the last. Highly recommended!

Now, planning the next trip South for Christmas – renewing acquaintance with New Zealanders who have already been to London and are ready to offer the “rain check” we took out. Happy holidays!

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